Inception – Plant an Idea

So I will not talk much about the movie. Those who have seen Inception would know that the movie cannot be captured in words… it needs to be felt and needs to be internalized. Those who have not see it yet…  you know what to do.

With every movie that Christopher Nolan makes, he will be raising the bar and in times to come would be known as probably the best director Hollywood ever had. Mr Nolan take a bow. I hope you sweep away all the possible Oscars. Absolutely loved The Dark Knight and have to lay my hands on Prestige and Memento.

But this blog is not about Inception the movie or Christopher Nolan.

This blog is about planting an idea in our brains as consumers.

In 1957, Mr Vance Packard wrote a seminal book “The Hidden Persuaders”. To quote Wikipedia –  Packard explores the use of consumer motivational research and other psychological techniques, including depth psychology and subliminal tactics, by advertisers to manipulate expectations and induce desire for products. It also explores the manipulative techniques of promoting politicians to the electorate. The book questions the morality of using these techniques.

Sounds familiar? It probably is the foundation of Inception. Of course Inception is about dreams but Mr Packard talked about planting ideas deep in the sub conscious of people who are wide awake.

Look around and you would realize that every piece of advertising is attempting to do that. Of course nowadays the subtlety is out of the window. Backed by huge media spends, the brands want to drum an idea into our heads. Case in point is the new Saif Ali Khan commercial for Airtel Digital TV. The day it was launched and couple of days after that… I must have seen that commercial at least 50 times in couple of days. It got to a point where I felt like throwing up everytime the commercial came on air. Media Planners wake up!

Anyways, the point is that what we buy today… what we consume and what we recommend, very little is actually what we believe ourselves. Everything is what the brand has taught us to say. Quick.. tell me why do you use Colgate… or Pepsodent or Close Up?? Or to move away from mundane… why Gucci, Prada, Tommy Hilfiger? Why an iPhone, iPad, Nokia… Why facebook? Why wordpress?

There are many people who would sit up and say “but Samir it is about the experienential aspect of the brand!” Right! Did you ever stop to think that the experience that you seeked and the experience that the brand fulfilled… were driven by the brand!

Politicians do it all the time. Media does it all the time. Read this morning that there are 89,000 vacancies to be filled up in Indian Railways. Media prompted by politicians is highlighting this fact as if it is Mamta Banerjee’s fault that the vacancies are not filled up. 89,000 vacancies!!! Surely there were other Ministers before her who could have ensured that they were filled up. Now I am no fan of Mamta Banerjee but give me a break!

Wonder how many of you would have seen this movie “New Delhi Times” starring Shashi Kapoor as the editor of the newspaper and how he gets manipulated by Manohar Singh as the politician. Same premise… the world would believe when they read it in newspaper (why also all the B2B businesses believe that PR is the way to go for building a brand).

In Swordfish – John Travolta tells Hugh Jackman that we believe what our eyes see and then towards the climax of the movie, he manipulates what Hugh Jackman sees. That’s another must watch movie by the way.

Brands over a period of time have learnt the art of manipulating us by constantly working on our herd mentality. I have always wondered about what is the difference in the detergent for top loading washing machine vs front loading!! But everytime I faithfully buy top loading detergent because I have a top loading washing machine. Now when I am writing this blog.. I am ready to burst out with laughter for getting conned like this.

Then of course there are subliminal ways to entice. Wonder how many of you would have noticed that when you walk into a movie hall… its only when there is a fair crowd waiting, the pop corn machine is started and the fragrance of pop corn permeates through the lobby and attacks our senses. And the urge to buy pop corn grows.

53 years down the line (after The Hidden Persuaders) Mr Nolan has again planted an idea in our brain and I am just wondering how many marketeers are thinking of ways to make the brand stronger by using such techniques. Fret not.. you would have read the book in college and thrown it away. If you still got it in your collection, dust the cover and start reading it again. Or go buy it.

As for me… It is Inception time again… have to watch it few times more….

So What List Would You Want To Be On?

The question would probably sound rhetorical once you read through the whole post.

I don’t know about others but I always have couple of lists in my mind… One is short and the other runs into couple of mental pages… And these lists are not about things to do or grocery list.

One list I call “payback list”… and am sure all appearing on that list wont be flattered… This list has all the people, products and brands that I want to get back at… Right now it is growing by the day (the world is against me syndrome) Banking services figure high on the list… except for HDFC who I believe is the only brand which lives up to what it promises as a brand. It is of course my personal experience but I believe that it would be the case with many who have interacted with HDFC… polite, caring and ready to help… But I am digressing…

Wonder what shrinks would make of this but this payback list always is on the left when I check it in my mind… The good one is always on the right…

These lists happen with everyone… Experiences help in building this list… And while first impressions count, they also color all subsequent interactions… And they tend to pile up the negatives against person, product, brand and organization.

And with information explosion… knowledge is making it easier than before to differentiate and mentally put someone or something on one list or the other… When choices proliferate, so does selection.

While the world would tell you otherwise, it is not enough to “communicate brand promise” or have an SEO strategy and be expert at Google Ad words… Need to spend more time on figuring out what list are you on. If it is left, you might as well give up on that person and move on. But if you are on the right… do more…

There is no such thing as “new consumer” anymore. Most first timers into a category know enough about the category and the brands that operate over there. In this day and age, communication is about retention… not just in terms of usage but about mindset…

And you can move from one list to another… all it requires is a huge effort or a big social event (good or bad)…

Take Michael Jackson the brand – 80’s and 90’s the brand was huge… nothing could go wrong. But then the brand took a hit… few actions made the social relevance dip… and made it move from right to left with news hungry media and we were lapping up everything that media was dishing out… the death and it has swung again back to right and would now remain there. Because media and people have realized that being associated with the brand is going to give returns (cyncial view but I bet there would be many right now who were part of the inner circle who would be wondering how to monetize the association). Look at me… in my own sneaky way, I am using MJ as an example… knowing the currency would get me hits on the post and many have done it before me… The crash of Twitter or Google was great news for Twitter and Google… more for Twitter… showing the kind of traffic Twitter gets… Definitely going to stay on the ‘right’ list for a while…

But as a person, brand or organization… won’t you want to be on the right side from day one and continue to stay there? It would require an understanding… and investment in that understanding to ensure that…

What is a response? or what is a stimulus?

Back when I was in HTA (JWT)   we had an account planner –  Sundar.  He used to give a lot of examples to illustrate the point that all advertising is a stimulus where we expect the consumer to respond in a certain manner. Let me rephrase… in a specific manner. What it essentially meant was the pressure is completely on the strategy people to have the right insight (or foresight) so that when the communication is ready… its very focused… and is the right stimulus and would necessarily get the correct response.

Unfortunately what we see around us… wonder what response the advertising is seeking and from whom (or is it who)…

Anyways I was just thinking the other day…. I could put the Set Wet or Godrej hair styling gel (psssstt.. figuratively only.. am a baldy)… put any of those Axe deo’s in my arm pits and over my gym toned body (courtesy World Gym in Pune)… hmm and a provogue shirt probably and one of the cool Levi’s Jeans (nah cant get myself to wear those hanging ones and show of my great pair of jockeys)… and get on a motorbike (any one of the Bajaj or Glamour from Hero Honda)…. 

And you are wondering what happens after all this? Well If all advertising were to be believed, I wont even be able to take the motorbike out of my complex!….. Will be swamped my women!! Women would be fighting each other… jumping over each other.. arguing with each…denouncing their boy friends or even kids (some kinky thought that)  to get a piece of me!!

And I really cant go wrong.. right?  Have used every single product that would supposedly attract women by the dozen!!! 

The agencies have told the client that they have created a perfect stimulus to get the right response from the world of morons outside the corporate office… who are just waiting to buy these products… because in a gender biased world… there are more men and less women… and men are looking for ways to attract women because brains and smartness dont matter…. wrap yourself in these products and brands.. and dude you have made it!

Think people! consumer is not a gullible fool! not any more.. if you as a brand want a meaningful and long lasting relationship with the consumer… then create the stimulus which will do that… and stimulus is not your next campaign or the big idea.. THINK

Why people do not buy high priced hatchbacks in India?

The original hatchback was Maruti and it pretty much set the trend for how hatchbacks are viewed.

Moving from hatchback to sedan is a huge lifestage shift for the person

And the community digs are hard to avoid when moving from INR 400,000 hatchback to INR 700,000 one.

Expensive (and I am talking people perspective) hatchback is not value for money… If I am spending so much money… I should get lot more!!

It took  “B” premium segment a while to become a big market (and that happened because there was a set of people who had INR 100,000 or lil more to spend than buying a Santro or a Wagon R) but the next level shift for the consumer would never be a hatchback… and as a second car in the house… the price tag would keep people away.

Premium hatchback manufacturers need to find a niche (in the mind of the consumer) and make it grow. Automobiles like technology have the task of educating and moving consumers up stream…

The perceptions of hatchback need to change.

Sedans did very well when they launched lower priced cars and helped the transition from hatchback to sedan… The numbers that Swift Dezire achieved after launch vs Swift launch would sure tell interesting story.

And the brands will need to identify the segment (visible or latent…) to create a positioning for their hatchbacks… And the answer does not lie in extensive quantitative and qualitative research and auto clinics.

Tata Nano – Whose dream car is it? – Part 2

So the numbers are out and they are not surprising. But still 200,000 cars booked is not bad at all. Though I just wonder… How many would actually take the deliveries when the time comes.

Hints of economy getting back on track and if it does get back on track, the aspirations of people would change (not that they are any different right now)

A car still, to many, is not a vehicle to commute from point A to point B. It signifies a shift in life stage (even for households where a small car is second or third car). And buying a car which is a taxi… not exactly a status elevator. And Nano is bound to transform the local cab commuting for sure. While the marketing team might disagree but when the production line is fully functional, the market reality would move the segment.

I do believe that the positioning shift definitely would be required and needs to happen before its too late. 200,000 is not a reflection of a need or a desire… Its the initial euphoria.

And I need to mention here.. its a great achievement to manufacture a car at this pricing… What it actually does is that it makes the consumers upstream question other manufacturers about the extra value that they are providing for the price tags.